Black history landmarks in Portland

These places represent the legacies of those who helped shape Rose City into what it is today.

A five-story building with a green roof at the corner of an urban intersection.

The Goldest West was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2022.

Photo by Cambrie Juarez, PDXtoday

Scattered across the City of Roses are places with stories to tell about the Black experience in Portland. You may pass some of these spots on your morning commute to work, or admire them on a jog, but do you know the legacies behind the landmarks?

Golden West Hotel | Pearl District

In 1906, an entrepreneur by the name of William D. Allen established Portland’s first hotel for Black patrons. The Golden West offered 100 rooms for railroad workers, and housed several Black-owned businesses (including a bar, a barbershop, an ice cream parlor, and an athletic club). Sandwiched between Bethel AME Church and Mount Olivet Baptist Church, the Golden West served as a social hub for the Black community for 25 years until the Great Depression triggered hard times. It closed and changed hands several times, eventually becoming what it is today: a low-cost housing development.

A geometric portrait of a woman wearing a hat on the side of an 11-story building overlooking trees and a river.

Home Forward commissioned the mural of Beatrice Morrow Cannady.

Photo courtesy of @mauriciopaints

Beatrice Morrow Cannady mural | St. Johns

Oregon’s “most noted civil rights activist” of the early 20th century lived and worked in Portland. Beatrice Morrow Cannady came to the city in 1912, where she joined The Advocate — Oregon’s only Black newspaper at the time. She later took over as editor and owner, co-founded Portland’s NAACP, and became the first Black woman to practice law in Oregon. Mauricio Ramirez painted a five-story mural honoring Cannady in 2021. Look for it at the top of Schrunk Riverview Tower on North Syracuse Street.

A single-story red brick building with a sign reading "Dean's Barber Shop Beauty Salon."

Dean’s Beauty Salon & Barber Shop was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2022.

Photo by Another Believer

Dean’s Beauty Salon & Barber Shop | Eliot

What may be the oldest Black-owned business in Oregon is in Northeast Portland’s Lower Albina neighborhood. Benjamin and Mary “Rose” Dean opened Dean’s Beauty Salon & Barber Shop in 1956 at a time when Black Portlanders had few options for finding financial and professional fulfillment under white employers. The salon was handed down to the couple’s daughter, who in turn passed it on to her daughter, Kimberly Brown, who operates the business to this day.

Parks are parked outside of a wood-shingled building with leafless trees along a sidewalk in winter.

The Billy Webb Elks Lodge was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2020.

Photo by Ian Poellet

Bill Webb Elks Lodge | Eliot

If the building at 6 N. Tillamook St. could talk, it would have nearly 100 years worth of stories to tell. Completed in 1926 for the Portland YWCA (whose membership at the time was segregated), the building served the city’s small Black community and offered a gym, auditorium, stage, lounge, and activities. The United Service Organizations took over the building for five years after World War II as a recreation center for minority soldiers. The Red Cross later turned it into an emergency shelter for people impacted by the Vanport flood of 1948. For the next few years — until the Oregon Public Accommodations Law was passed in 1953 — the building was a gathering place for local civil rights groups like the Oregon Association of Colored Women and Portland’s Urban League. The YWCA sold the building in the 1950s to the Billy Webb Elks, a member of the African American branch of the Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks. The lodge was renovated and restored between 2008 and 2009, but was seriously damaged by a fire in 2021. It received a $140,000 grant from the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund the following year; a GoFundMe campaign by Restore Oregon raised nearly $29,000 to help with repairs. The lodge was still closed as of early 2023.

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